Learning to sing doesn't have to be complicated! You don't need an expensive teacher or a list of "rules" to abide by. Singing technique varies widely depending on every individual; there is no "right way."
Recording your practice sessions is ESSENTIAL! You NEED to know what you sound like; not what someone else says you sound like or what you THINK you sound like. Be objective!
Here are the steps to learn to sing fast, effectively, and affordably!
Disclaimer: There's some geeky (but simple) home studio talk ahead. While I highly recommend following these 7 steps, if you really have no interest in learning about microphones simply skip steps 1-3 and buy yourself a high quality hand-held recording device. You're doing yourself a HUGE disservice, however
1. Buy a Cheap, Used Microphone or Hand-Held Recording Device
Look for industry standards within your price range. Buying used often cuts the price in half. Check Amazon, Craigslist, and Ebay regularly. Music shops are a decent place to look as well, but they often jack up the cost.
Each microphone has different characteristics and tone qualities, so do your research. If you go to a local music store you can ask to try out their equipment and see what works for your voice.
You'll also need to buy an audio interface. M-Audio tends to be a cheap home studio audio interface brand. Again, buy used!
Personally, I bought a share SM7B, a popular industry standard. However, it’s not perfect! It’s a bit of a dark, warm sounding microphone so it doesn’t work with every style for my particular voice. A little bit of basic mixing will reasonably fix most microphone issues.
This will run you $200-300 but will last you a lifetime! Never before has recording equipment been so affordable and readily available at home! If money is an issue or if you're an absolute beginner, you can probably find a decent hand-held recording device for about $75 used. An Iphone is also an alternative but is incredibly far from ideal.
2. “Legally” Torrent a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
Like most things, this sounds more complicated than it really is. If you don’t know what torrenting is… google it! Remember to ahem... always pay for overpriced, expensive music software!
Examples of popular recording software are Garageband, Fruity Loops, Cubase, and Ableton Live.
If you're a beginner I highly recommend Garageband. Fruity Loops is good too. Ableton Live for intermediate users. Cubase for more advanced uses (you will likely never need it.)
I personally use Ableton Live. It's light on CPU usage, has a minimalistic design, and comes with high quality (but low CPU intensive) mixing plug-ins (reverb, EQ, compression, etc.)
3. Learn Basic Recording & Mixing Skills
Basic recording: Mic position, room acoustics. That’s about it.
Mixing skills: Volume Clipping, EQ, Reverb, and (occasionally) Compression. That's all you'll need to know.
The technical aspects of learning basic recording skills might seem overwhelming, but I promise you they're not! Once you find a microphone, it's a cake walk and you'll be setting yourself up for AMAZING practice routines. AND! You can record your own tracks and albums instead of paying HUNDREDS to get recorded in an expensive studio as you progress!
4. Begin Recording Your Practice Sessions
Go to YouTube. Type “Song Name by Artist Karaoke” or replace “Karaoke” with “Instrumental.” Google YouTube to mp3. Put the MP3 file into your audio interface. Record your voice singing either a whole song, certain phrase, certain note and then listen back. Save your best examples.
5. Use A Mirror
Place a full length mirror in front of your recording set-up. Watch yourself as you perform; correct odd tension that could hurt your singing. Ex: Unnecessarily odd postures, tense neck, strained looking faces, shallow breathing.
USE YOUR BODY LANGUAGE TO BE EXPRESSIVE! If you're singing a happy song SMILE! If you're singing an angry song, BE ANGRY! Let the emotion of the song take over your body.. but avoid anything that looks/feels uncomfortable or unnatural.
6. Keep A Singing Journal
Write down what you accomplished that day! How long did you practice? What did you learn? What ideas worked for you? What didnt work? How can you improve tomorrow? Do you have new goals? Be honest with yourself!
This is a fantastic way to measure your progress and to ensure that you're practicing SMART!
I used to journal in notebooks but now I use my laptop. Find what works for you!
7. Find A Singing Teacher (Optional)
Do your research! Find an experienced teacher (ie: successful singing career, amazing voice, successful students) that lines up with your values, your singing style, etc. Skype lessons are OK for temporary help (cough i teach Skype lessons at affordable rates cough) but long term you really need to take weekly lessons in person.
If you're short on cash, you're MUCH better off following the above steps to learn to sing than you would be to learn from a mediocre teacher. Contrary to popular belief, teaching yourself is a fantastic alternative if you're short on cash!